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Betrayal’s Shadow Author Dave-Brendon de Burgh Chats About Speculative Fiction in South Africa

By Wesley Anderson

What do Pretoria and the genre of epic fantasy have in common? If you’d asked this question just two years ago my answer would have been rather thin: fan-boys and fan-girls of varying tastes, perhaps a visiting international author every now and then, but nothing truly South African. There is certainly a lot more to say in 2014, as the South African epic fantasy scene sports its very own successful author, Dave-Brendon de Burgh.

Betrayal's ShadowDe Burgh first made his name with short stories in anthologies such as eFantasy, AfroSF, and eSciFi during 2012 – 2013. Recently, his career has been set to full steam with the release of his first full-length novel, Betrayal’s Shadow: Book I of the Mahaelian Chronicle, published by Fox and Raven.

Seeing the waves that Dave has been making in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, I simply had to catch up with him and find out where it has all come from, what he’s learnt along the way, and where it’s going.

Why does the epic fantasy genre appeal to you?

I’m a sucker for drama on a grand scale. Couple that with the opportunity to explore worlds and cultures that don’t exist through the eyes and emotions of characters that seem at once larger than life and as familiar as a friend, and there’s no getting me away from it.

What kind of challenges did you face in finding a publisher for Betrayal’s Shadow?

I would have to say that the big publishers in South Africa not standing behind speculative fiction written by South Africans is a big problem. This forces our local writers either to sign with publishers who don’t have distribution deals with the big retailers here (such as Exclusive Books and CNA), meaning they don’t get the visibility and reach they need, or these writers are forced to look outside of SA for publication. Either way, it’s very difficult for most South African speculative-fiction writers to get anything published or available in SA.

Fox and Raven picked you up for publication, how did that relationship start?

I happened to notice that someone (I think it was Cristy Zinn) shared a link to Fox & Raven’s Facebook page, and I followed them and also shared information about them until I saw the announcement in which they stated that they were open for novel-length submissions. I submitted, and around two weeks later I received an email that had me jumping around like a mad thing.

Do you prefer print or ebook format for your own publications?

The fact that Betrayal’s Shadow is available in print and ebook is awesome, since it gives me two areas in which to sell my book. The point is, my publisher holds the rights, and because they are a business and want to make enough money to sell more books, grow as a publisher, and live day to day, I trust them to place my book in markets where readers can get my book, and I’ve got no complaints at all.

What is the most personally beneficial advice you have heard or read about the journey to becoming a great writer?

It would have to be this: sit your ass down and write. There’s an almost romantic idea that people have of writing, that somehow the stars align and the lighting is perfect and the brain fizzes along and the words just happen – but this happens very rarely.

How long did it take you to write Betrayal’s Shadow, and has it been quicker to work on Book 2?

I have to preface my answer by telling you that it took around nine years of writing before I was ready to write the novel – which means plenty of unfinished tales! It took me one year and just over one month to write Book 1. I’ve been much quicker on Book 2, so far – by the end of this month I’ll be at 50 000 words, and I should easily hit the projected 120 – 130K by the end of November.

De Burgh recently spoken at the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Rocks event at the Open Book Festival, with Marius du Plessis (Fox and Raven’s publishing director), Mike Carey and Raymond E Feist.

Watch the video:

De Burgh’s second full-length novel is due for release in 2015.

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